Interview with Ian Matthews

What was the motivation for writing a follow-up to ‘Seriously Funny’ with Adrian Plass?

The first book seem to bring a lot of relief to people – it let them know they were not alone in their struggles and fears. One person wrote to us and said that the book helped them to avoid insanity! So we decided, not just to do more of the same, but go deeper.

There seems to be a genuine friendship and rapport between you and Adrian in the book – is this genuine?

It is genuine. Adrian and Bridget are delightful people, deeply caring and authentic. We’ve not spent as much time together over the years as we would have liked, but they are a joy to be with. I always feel that God likes me a little more after being with them.

The book dwells a lot on how many people have the wrong idea about how God feels about us. Why do you think this is?

I think we have a patchwork quilt understanding of Jesus – a composite from a thousand sermons, from worship songs, prayers prayed, prayers answered or sometimes seemingly ignored, times of blessing or barrenness plus so many conversations about him over cups of tea and rich tea biscuits. Add to that our upbringing, parenting experience, and you can see that we don’t download a ‘pure’ picture of who God is. And sadly, whatever scripture tells us, the patchwork quilt seems to often present a rather difficult, tetchy God who has been appeased and is not too happy about it. The bottom line is this: he utterly knows us, and utterly loves us.

In your writings there seems to be a strong link between poignancy and humour – is this deliberate?

Yes. Laughter and tears and close cousins. Laughter sometimes is what opens us up to be moved or really impacted.

You also have a new book out called ‘I was just Wandering.’ What is this about?

I get worried when I hear people talking about spiritual growth as if its a predictable straight-line, so if we just feed people into the discipleship hopper then a ‘mature’ Christian will come out – my Christian life is more a wander than a walk. The book is a compilation of pieces that were originally published in ‘Christianity” magazine, but have now been reshaped and extended. I hope that there’s lots of laughter, tears and hope in those pages.

Do you see yourself as a storyteller or a preacher?

Both. I am a preacher who tells stories and a storyteller who preachers. But I am passionate about story: story helps us to locate ourselves, and in a sense, locate God too.

As someone who travels between the US and the UK a lot, what differences to you see in the Christianity of both places?

Massive question. USA – positive, generous, politically polarized. The Church sometimes struggles in a consumer culture where there are 87,000 coffee possibilities at Starbucks. UK – Church needs to believe in itself more, and is often very, very tribal – but amazing things done in terms of mobilizing so many Christians to love and serve their communities. And the UK Christian sense of humour is a bit more raw and daring.

How do you see your ministry developing in the future?

No clue really. More mentoring, less travel. Focused writing projects. Dressage and silk flower arranging seminars. (not really).